An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families

Sponsor

Seamus O'Regan  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 19, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-92.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment affirms the rights and jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples in relation to child and family services and sets out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to Indigenous children, such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

April 11, 2019 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 10:10 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the people of Montreal were waiting for many years to see the replacement of the Champlain Bridge. Stephen Harper and the Conservative government failed the people of Montreal and thereby the people of Quebec, and in fact all Canadians, on many fronts. This is a good example of how the Harper government could not get the job done. With this government, we have seen historic investments in infrastructure in every region of our country. The Champlain Bridge is a good example.

The Conservatives, once again, have taken this day to attempt to bump debate on government legislation, Bill C-92, which is critically important legislation. In my own riding of Winnipeg North, hundreds of children are in foster care. This is about reconciliation, and the Conservatives continue to want to filibuster on what is important legislation that needs to be debated.

Why does the member opposite feel that the Conservative Party is entitled to deny Canadians good, solid legislation and debate while it tries to play politics on the issue of SNC-Lavalin, when his own leader and that party have met with SNC-Lavalin? He did not make reference to that either.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it shows the sensitivity of the Conservatives when they have to reflect on their past performances inside the House. In this debate, the two previous Conservative speakers talked about SNC and serious allegations. Now when I challenge them on those allegations, we find that they are very uncomfortable, and justifiably so, because if we compare Stephen Harper and his administration on the issue of judicial independence to this government, it is ultimately night and day, with Harper being the darker side. A vast majority of individuals would recognize that. We only need to look at some of the appointments that were made or attempted under that administration.

I want to provide some thoughts in regard to the standing committees. It was not that long ago when there was a memo sent out by the Conservatives at the time. They wanted to deliberately obstruct committees. That is something that has not changed with the Conservative Party. If we want to get into the details of what is taking place here in Ottawa, I would summarize it by saying that the official opposition is continuing to follow the memo that was issued many years ago to deliberately obstruct committees.

Standing committees can contribute in a very valuable way to the proceedings of this House, and so can the proceedings that take place in this chamber. Preventing debates, such as debate on Bill C-92, is a disservice to Canadians. The Conservative opposition needs to get back on track and start thinking and acting on what is in the best interest of Canadians, as opposed to the best interest of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the government wanting to move to Bill C-92. It has made commitments for years that it finally tabled in a flawed bill. That bill could be improved and do the job it is supposed to do if the government is willing to accept amendments to it.

As we know, the government has all of these tools in the tool box, which is the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. The member protested that he wanted to move to debate on Bill C-92, but during the entire half-hour speech, he did not move to adjourn the debate and go to orders of the day. He has in his possession a whole range of tools that he chose not to use.

My question is very simple. If the Liberals really believe in going to Bill C-92, which Canadians have been waiting years for, why did he not use any of the tools he has? Is that incompetence, or is it because the government actually does not want to go to Bill C-92?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question, even though the Champlain Bridge was not incorporated in it.

Having said that, I am glad there is support and encouragement for the government to use the tools within the Standing Orders so we can get this important legislative agenda, in particular Bill C-92, through the House. That means at times we will have to move to Government Orders and use time allocation to do that, because as has been demonstrated yesterday and today, the Conservatives, and we will have to wait to see about the NDP, continue to filibuster.

As a result, the member is right; there are tools within the Standing Orders, and I hope that when the time comes for us to use those tools, the NDP House leader will be behind us in making sure they are effective in enabling us to pass the legislation, because it is obvious the Conservatives do not want us to pass anything. They have demonstrated that through obstruction, both here and in our standing committees.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. We should have started the debate on Bill C-92 yesterday.

Bill C-92 affects thousands of children throughout our country; in fact, it affects hundreds of them in Winnipeg North alone. In Winnipeg North, there are hundreds of children in foster care. In Manitoba, well over 10,000 children are in foster care and many of them are indigenous. Our indigenous communities talk about reconciliation, and this is a big part of it.

However, the Conservatives are filibustering, and today we are now talking about the Champlain Bridge. Members in the Liberal caucus, like my colleague, very much want to see that bridge. We are the ones who are pushing for that bridge to be completed. We recognize the importance of the bridge to residents of Montreal, and that is why we are pushing it.

If the Conservatives want to have a debate on the bridge, then they should go to the public accounts committee, which will have future discussions about it. Is it really necessary here in the chamber, especially given that we are supposed to be debating Bill C-92? No, it is a filibuster by the Conservatives, and shame on them because they do not understand what the priorities of Canadians really and truly are. They should get back on track with Canadians and get rid of the former Harper government-style, gutter-type politics.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is finally becoming clear what the government is trying to do. It was absolutely so incompetent with the indigenous language legislation that it had to table drop 30 amendments. The Liberals know that there are some real challenges with Bill C-92. They were after their friends to say it is the Conservatives who are stalling, when we know they have tools they could use today to enable us to get on with that debate.

Please keep your blame for those who deserve it, which is right on yourself. You could have moved on. Thank you very much, but please tell us why you did not do that.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the Champlain Bridge. This is a very important project for the people of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

This infrastructure project began in 2007 when Le Journal de Montréal published an article about the need to build a 10-lane bridge across the river. A month later, Novaroute, a private firm, decided to conduct a study in order to publish a story about building a tunnel under the river. At that point, everyone had already known for more than 10 years that the bridge would have to be replaced, but the plan was several years in the making.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts issued a report in response to the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General found that the Conservatives completely botched the job of ensuring that the bridge would be built in a timely manner and in the best interests of Canadians.

This report shows that the Conservatives mismanaged public funds. The Auditor General's report is astonishing. The report included a number of recommendations directed at the Harper Conservatives, who could have considerably improved their approach.

It is mind-boggling that the Conservatives are bringing these reports back to our attention to discuss them, but I will talk about them.

The reports indicate that, according to the Auditor General, the Conservatives did not even properly plan the bridge's construction. It is absolutely unbelievable that they did not even produce an adequate plan for getting the job done.

On October 6, 2011, the day after the announcement about replacing the bridge, an article reported that it would be a new bridge, not a tunnel, built through a P3, costing a maximum of $5 billion and that it would be ready within 10 years. Both the Office of the Auditor General and a government news release indicate that the decision to use a P3 model was made in 2011, a fact that is also supported by a news article. Deputy Minister Kelly Gillis said that the decision was made in December 2013, because that was when the government announced the accelerated timeline to replace the bridge in 2018, and the analyses carried out in 2012 and 2013 addressed the best way to complete the project quickly.

According to the Office of the Auditor General, the value-for-money analyses were of little use to decision-makers and contained many flaws favouring the P3 model. What is more, the department's analyses indicated savings that were unrealistic.

It was unrealistic. The Conservatives say that they are extremely good at managing the economy and public funds, but according to the OAG, the department's analyses were unrealistic. It took a Liberal government to get this bridge built and to make sure the work was done properly.

I would also note that the Conservatives wanted a toll on this bridge that would have cost every person who crosses the bridge five days a week $2,340 a year. It is unbelievable. That is $2,340 that would have been taken or practically stolen out of taxpayers' pockets. It is terrible when we think about it. Montrealers are lucky we are here now to manage the resources. The bridge is almost finished, and there is no toll. It is a bridge for public use. It is a bridge that everyone will be able to use. The Conservatives wanted this bridge to be used only by their wealthy friends.

The following is another recommendation from the Office of the Auditor General:

After completing the construction of the new Champlain Bridge, Infrastructure Canada should create realistic benchmarks for construction costs, risk evaluation, and efficiency rates in value-for-money analyses, for use in future requests for proposals for infrastructure projects.

This seems to make perfect sense, but former Conservative infrastructure ministers Lawrence Cannon and Denis Lebel did not understand it. They did not know what they were doing. I want to share another quote from the report:

Without obtaining results of durability analyses in advance, Infrastructure Canada could not know whether the proposed bridge designs would meet the expected service life requirement before it signed a contract with the selected bidder. [For instance]...they did not fully assess several deterioration mechanisms—for example, frost damage and the compounding effect of all deterioration mechanisms. As a result, [the OAG] performed comprehensive durability analyses on the designs of key non-replaceable components of the new bridge. In [its] analysis, [it] did not find design problems that would affect the examined components’ ability to meet their expected service life.

I would like to come back to the passage stating that Infrastructure Canada could not know whether the proposed bridge designs met the expected service life requirements. The Conservatives were so inept and incapable of managing public assets that they were not even able to figure out if this bridge would last. The bridge would be built and then perhaps one day collapse. A bridge should last at least 100 years and ideally 125 years.

According to the Auditor General, the Conservatives did not know if it would last because they did not even evaluate this requirement. Ten years ago, several people died in Montreal because of how certain structures were built. It is disgraceful that the Conservatives did not even take the time to evaluate this properly. We are now here to debate this issue. It is disgraceful that the Conservatives continue to put forward the proposals of Stephen Harper, Denis Lebel and Lawrence Cannon. We are pleased that they are no longer in power. We have come out of this decade of decay and poor management of our economy and public assets. They should be ashamed.

Now, I would like to remind members that we are supposed to be debating Bill C-92.

We are supposed to be debating Bill C-92, which is about the children, youth and families of first nations, Inuit and Métis. We are not debating that right now because instead we are doing what the Conservatives want, which is to debate this infrastructure report. This is an infrastructure report that demonstrates the poor management of the Conservative Party when it was in power, regarding the public good in Montreal with respect to the Champlain Bridge. Therefore, we are not debating this very important bill concerning child welfare for our children.

When I gave my maiden speech in the House of Commons three years ago, I spoke about child welfare. The speech was about the 11,000 kids in care in the province of Manitoba.

Since that time, I have had the opportunity in my riding, one of the poorest ridings in the country, to speak with mothers and fathers who have had their children taken, such as Chantelle Hutchison, who drove all the way from Brandon, Manitoba, to see me in Winnipeg to advocate to, somehow, get her child back, her little girl. I keep this photo of the little girl above my stove so that when I am cooking in my apartment here in Ottawa I remember why I was elected. Even though we were not able to help the mother get her child back, I hope if Chantelle is listening right now she knows that this legislation we have here today is because of her hard work advocating not only on behalf of her child but for the thousands of children and families in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and right across the country.

This legislation is so important that I call on the Conservatives to not play games anymore and to stop debate on this report, which I am sure is very important, but this child welfare bill is so important it needs to move forward. It needs to move on through this House and to the Senate. If we spend a lot of time playing these games, this legislation will not become law and we will not effect change. We will continue doing the same things we did with the Indian residential schools.

I will admit that I was mean to the Conservatives. However, I will throw them what I hope is a rose. I was proud when Stephen Harper stood in the House and gave the apology for the Indian residential schools, because it was a defining moment in the history of our nation. We were able to come together in a good way. We had indigenous leaders here. We had all-party support. The apology was made and then we built a stained glass window just outside the old chamber to commemorate it, so that every time we as parliamentarians go through our door, in and out of that chamber, we remember the Indian residential schools. I think this law is like that.

Indian residential schools were about placing children in large institutions. However, back in the sixties we slowly changed how the system worked. We started to place children up for adoption. We call that the sixties scoop, the stolen generation. Then, in the eighties, we stopped using adoption and started placing them with foster families in child welfare. We continue to do that today. It is extremely sad that it continues. We are perpetuating the same mistakes of the past but in a different way. It is more diffused. Instead of concentrating children in one place, we are spreading them around society.

Therefore, I hope we can stop debate on this lovely report. I am sure the committee members worked very hard on it. I can continue hammering away on the Conservatives if they would like. I can do it all in French, with all the costs. However, what I really want to get to is this. I think the legislation, Bill C-92, should go to committee. If we can get it passed at second reading and to committee, we can have the debate, we can hear what indigenous organizations and indigenous peoples want, deal with the legislative amendments from some provincial governments and come to a conclusion.

It was mentioned in the debate about the indigenous languages legislation from last night, which is very important, how over 30 amendments were table dropped. That does not mean the government was just willing to table legislation and not see any changes at all. It means it was willing to consult and listen to people. I think it is important that things are not written in stone when it comes out of the justice department so that improvements can be made through public discussion. That is what needs to happen with this law. It is great to debate and get people on the record here in this chamber, but what we really need is to have this legislation move on to committee, because that is where we will see that change.

I am going to leave the House with a statistic. We know there are 11,000 kids in care. We know that every day in Manitoba a newborn baby is seized, a newborn baby is taken from the mother, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not. In Manitoba, if someone was in the child welfare system and they give birth, there will be a note on their health file and if they give birth in the Manitoba health care system, their child will automatically be taken.

I see men and women come into my office, week after week, trying to get a letter of recommendation, not for immigration purposes, not for a visitor visa, but to say that they are a good parent. I look at the certificates and all the training they have gone through to become good parents and to prove they are good parents. It is strange that they have to get certificates to prove they are good parents. Not everyone else has to do that. I never had to do that. I am sure most of the members here never had to prove that they were a good parent.

However, that is what happens day in and day out in this country for some of the poorest citizens who cannot afford lawyers, who cannot afford to really advocate on their own behalf, who are sometimes only 18 or 19 years old, who got pregnant and who want to love their child.

I know there are people who will say online or will write me to say that there are terrible people who need to have their children taken. The Province of Manitoba, through the Health Sciences Centre research branch published a report looking at child welfare, and 87% of all children taken are taken not because of issues related to abuse but are taken because of issues related to poverty. That leaves 13%. Incredibly enough, that 13% is where we have allegations of abuse. Of that 13%, only 12% are substantiated abuse. This means that in the vast majority of cases, there is no abuse involved. It is just because people are too poor to look after their own children, or for other issues.

That is a travesty of justice in our age. That is why it is important that we have some consensus to stop debating report 51 and move on to Bill C-92, a historic piece of legislation that will affect great change across our nation, which is needed now, before this Parliament ends, while we have the opportunity and the chance.

Do not let this occasion slip through our fingers. Whether members win in this upcoming election or not, every parliamentarian who participates in this debate on Bill C-92, who lets this legislation move forward, will be able to look at themselves in the mirror. When they are at home and wondering why they lost or won that election, they will be able to look themselves in the eye at two o'clock in the morning and know that they made a difference.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, what is becoming more clear as this debate progresses is the attempt by the Liberals to distract.

What they are trying to distract from is their appalling position in terms of SNC-Lavalin, and the fact that they easily could have been debating Bill C-92 now in the chamber had they just exercised some of the tools they have at their disposal. They are trying to shift the blame. The reason the Liberals are trying to shift the blame is perhaps that the bill is as challenged as the indigenous languages bill, where they had to table drop 30 amendments, and it is unheard of for a government to have to table drop 30 amendments.

We absolutely think we should be looking at the child welfare legislation, but I hope it is not as dismally flawed as other legislation the Liberals have presented in the House.

How can the hon. member sit there and say that we need to talk about Bill C-92, when as a member of the government he is not exercising the opportunities that he has to make it happen?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know members love to play games. I know there are all sorts of manoeuvres that can be made using the Standing Orders. Just yesterday, two motions were proposed by the Conservatives that delayed debate on Bill C-92.

We talk about relevance here, so I am going to talk about it. I do not believe the report has any mention of SNC-Lavalin, yet the member opposite raises this issue. What does that have to do with our debate?

I would like to point something out. Some believe that the justice department and its lawyers write legislation in stone and that it is so good that when it comes out of the justice department, no changes need to be made by parliamentarians. That is wrong. Parliament should have a role to play in making changes and debating those changes when they go to committee. Our role as a Parliament is to assert our power as parliamentarians to make changes in legislation.

Let us talk about the legislation on indigenous languages. Over 30 changes were made because people were willing to listen and make those changes, and that is great. Members should listen.

If this legislation, Bill C-92, requires more changes, we are willing to listen. I know some groups want to see some little differences and they want to see a little more power being given to indigenous groups. I know the Province of Manitoba has some concerns. However, these changes happen in committee and are made by the people who study this day in and day out and who are experts in this subject matter area. They have the best understanding, as they have been studying these issues for a number of years.

I trust the member opposite has a great expertise in this area and can bring great ideas to make those changes.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:30 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be helpful for anyone watching this from home to understand the kinds of machinations that go on in this place. I agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre that it would be much better if we were debating Bill C-92, the indigenous child welfare legislation. At this point, it is inadequate and needs to get to committee.

Cindy Blackstock said, “the red flags are already flying, such as the pan-Indigenous approach, the lack of a clear funding base, a lack of attention to the child welfare needs among and between first nations, Métis and Inuit.”

However, we find ourselves here because of the refusal of the Liberals on the justice committee to allow the former attorney general to speak. That puts the opposition, in this case the official opposition, the Conservatives, in a mood that says they will do anything to monkey wrench what is going on in this place.

Although I do not like monkey wrenching in general, I have to admit there is nothing that makes sense about saying that those involved in the SNC-Lavalin question of inappropriate pressure brought on our former attorney general are allowed to speak twice if they happen to represent the view of “nothing go on here, move on”. We are denied the opportunity to put critical questions to the former attorney general.

In the context of a debate that should be on something else, the Conservatives have taken the chance they have through procedural machinations and monkey wrenching. In this case, my sympathies are with the official opposition because we should not have been denied that opportunity to hear from the former attorney general, as much as I agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre that we should be discussing Bill C-92.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today in the House and join this concurrence debate.

I know this issue was discussed yesterday, but since this is my first time rising since it happened, I do want to add my voice to those of many others who have expressed condolences for the victims of the terrible terrorist attack targeting the Muslim community in New Zealand, and express my solidarity with the victims and all those who are in some way affected by this event.

I also want to highlight growing concerns about the persecution and violence targeting Christians in Nigeria. This is something I have been hearing about from constituents and I know it is a concern for many members in the House as well.

I want to set the stage with respect to the context of the debate. There is some discussion back and forth about the procedure that brings us here.

The opposition has moved a concurrence motion with respect to a report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. It is interesting to hear members of the government speak as if we just should not use the opportunity to bring forward concurrence motions that reflect important public policy issues, but instead we should only debate the things that the government puts on the agenda. This reflects a certain misunderstanding about the role of the opposition and what we are here to do. It is perfectly legitimate for the opposition to put forward motions with respect to committee reports and other issues that reflect public policy issues and reflect what we hear from our constituents. There is nothing illegitimate about the opposition doing its job in that way.

Members of the government would like to talk about aspects of their own legislative agenda, but they need to understand that this is not just about a government and an audience. This is about a government and an opposition. This is how the House of Commons is supposed to work.

We know the government would like to, and on multiple occasions has attempted to, reduce the powers and prerogatives of the opposition to indeed reduce us to a mere audience. However, this Conservative opposition has not and will not go quietly in that respect. It is important for us to assert the prerogatives of members, to assert the important role of the opposition and to use the tools that are available to us, yes, to raise, through concurrence and other measures, important public policy issues, but also to use these tools as a way of challenging the government to do better in other areas.

For instance, we have said that the former attorney general should be able to testify before the justice committee with all of the fetters off. She should be able to actually talk about why she resigned from cabinet and events that happened afterwards. Up until now, the Prime Minister and the government have not allowed that to happen. We have, in a number of ways through parliamentary procedures, highlighted the unwillingness of the government to allow that conversation to take place. Now we have members of the justice committee who are trying to shut down hearings into what happened involving the Prime Minister, the former attorney general and SNC-Lavalin. Therefore, we are very concerned about that.

We hear concerns from Canadians. They are looking for answers and want us as the opposition to use the tools that are available to us to seek answers, and certainly we are going to continue to do that. Therefore, we make no apologies for being an efficient and effective opposition; for standing up for what Canadians are saying; for raising issues around infrastructure, around the Champlain Bridge; and also for raising issues around corruption, dealing with the government. These are things we are going to continue to highlight, whether members of the government like it or not.

Parenthetically I will say that in some of the speeches and comments we have heard from members of the government, they have talked about Bill C-92, which is the legislation that apparently the Liberals were intending to bring forward today. I will draw to the attention of members the fact that Bill C-92 was tabled in the House the last Thursday before the break. Therefore, in terms of sitting days, it has been tabled here for about three days.

Canadians know that the government has been in place for approaching three and a half years. Certainly, these issues around child welfare and indigenous child welfare are important issues for discussion. The government could have moved forward with the discussion of this issue a long time ago. The Liberals could have put forward reforms that they thought appropriate much earlier in their mandate and we would have already discussed these changes and have moved forward with them. However, the government is waiting until the last possible minute to put these things forward and tabling it. Then right away the Liberals are saying that anyone who puts forward other motions and other issues for debate in the House is somehow obstructing this.

The Liberals have been way behind the eight ball in putting forward proposals in this area, and now it is someone else's fault. Their failure to take action, their failure to move the discussion forward earlier, is not something that should lead to the opposition losing its opportunity to raise other issues as well. Their lack of management of the House calendar and their own legislative agenda does not somehow create a requirement for the opposition, especially when all the Liberals would have had to do to facilitate greater co-operation in the House on matters of agenda and procedure was allow the former attorney general to speak at committee without the kind of restrictions the government is continuing to put on the former attorney general.

Canadians want and deserve to hear what she wants to say, and she wants to speak about those things as well. If the government would like to move forward, the first step is to listen to Canadians and let the former attorney general address all the issues around this sordid affair and then allow Canadians to make their own judgment.

I would like to address, in particular, the issues raised in the concurrence motion. This is report 4 of the Auditor General, which deals with the proposal to replace the Champlain Bridge in Montreal and the issue of extensions and late fees being paid by the government. It is another case of Canadians paying in the form of late fees for the mistakes of the government.

We see so many areas in which Canadians are paying more as a result of the mistakes of the government. We are seeing, as a result of that, attempts by the government to raise people's taxes. We know that those attempts to raise taxes are not the end of it from the government. Indeed, this out-of-control spending is the same thing we saw from the Kathleen Wynne Liberals in Ontario. When there is out-of-control spending, it leads to subsequent proposals from the same government for higher taxes.

We have a critical window of time to fix those failures, to get back on track in terms of spending, to address the deficit, to control the areas of failure that are costing Canadians and to thus prevent this kind of situation where taxes will have to go up.

Moving forward on the Champlain Bridge is an important project. It is a process that began with the previous Conservative government, but we have seen a failure to move this forward effectively by the current Liberal government. This is representative of a larger problem in terms of the infrastructure policies of the government. The government has failed to deliver on infrastructure in many different areas. The Liberals talk a lot about infrastructure. They have made a lot of promises about infrastructure, but they have failed to deliver.

Let us start from the beginning on the infrastructure file. The first minister of infrastructure, who is from a neighbouring riding in the Edmonton region, was very concerned about the infrastructure of his office. He was very concerned about developing the infrastructure where he and his political staff would be operating. Huge amounts of money were spent on renovations in his office, and this was widely discussed within his constituency and the surrounding area. I heard those discussions. When the priorities of the infrastructure minister should have been infrastructure Canadians use, such as roads, bridges and so on, so much in the way of public dollars went into renovating the infrastructure of his office instead.

We see repeatedly from the government announcements and reannouncements of the same projects, projects, in many cases, that were previously put in place, and a lot of the work done, under the previous government, yet we see a lack of action.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister and eight of his ministers fanned out across the country to reannounce infrastructure announcements that had already been made, which provided more opportunities for photos and selfies. However, the Liberals, when it comes to infrastructure, as in so many other areas, are all talk and no action. They are not moving forward. We see that on all sorts of key infrastructure, including the Champlain Bridge.

I would add that while there is a failure to move forward on Canadian infrastructure, the government made a decision to make a big investment in something called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB. The AIIB is headquartered in Beijing and really is a tool of China's foreign policy to build infrastructure throughout Asia. We have seen the way the Chinese government seeks to build infrastructure as a way of extending its political influence and control throughout the continent. There is the example of a port constructed in Sri Lanka. It has raised big concerns about Chinese control and influence as a result of the way this port project has proceeded.

There are many different cases through the so-called belt and road initiative, whereby the Chinese government seeks to extend its influence by spending money on these kinds of projects. One might understand why the Chinese government sees it as in its national interest to do so. However, what I do not understand and what constituents in my riding do not understand is why it is in Canada's interest to be spending Canadian taxpayer dollars on building infrastructure in Asia through a vehicle that is designed to advance the foreign policy objectives of the Government of the People's Republic of China. That does not make sense to me and my constituents, and I do not think it makes to taxpayers anywhere.

While putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is building a pipeline in Azerbaijan and projects outside the country, we have had a failure to move forward with vital infrastructure projects here in Canada.

I have raised the issue of the dissonance between the eagerness to invest in infrastructure overseas and the failure to invest in infrastructure here in Canada. The government's response is that this is about Canadian companies now having the opportunity to bid on these projects. The Liberals say that if they give money to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, this vehicle of China's Communist government's foreign policy, Canadian companies will be able to participate in these projects. That would be an interesting argument, if it were true.

When I was in Beijing last, I visited the headquarters of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to discuss its procurement policies. It said very clearly that it has an open staffing and open procurement policy. Therefore, any company from anywhere in the world, theoretically, has the same opportunity to bid on their projects, regardless of whether the country in which that company is headquartered is a member of the bank. That was the Liberal government's one argument for putting hundreds of millions of dollars into this foreign infrastructure bank: it would provide opportunities for Canadian companies to bid. However, Canadian companies already have those opportunities.

Canadian nationals already have the opportunity to work for the bank. In fact, when we went to Beijing, we met with a Canadian national who was working for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Therefore, the Liberals' only argument for hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money going to these projects falls through. It would not have been difficult to find that information.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:55 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, whether it is today or yesterday, the sad reality is that the Conservatives, as the official opposition, are filibustering and preventing Bill C-92 from being debated. Bill C-92 affects the lives of children. In Manitoba alone, there are over 11,000 kids in foster care, most of whom are of indigenous heritage. When one talks of reconciliation, Bill C-92 is a big part that reconciliation and provides hope in many different ways.

For the second day, the opposition has brought in another concurrence motion. There are over 500 motions and only another 49 sitting days. If it was up to the Conservatives, they would bring forward a motion every day. Their intent is to be destructive to the government and its agenda. It is as simple as that. Today Conservatives are even saying that we have other tools we should have used to force them to behave responsibly. Unfortunately, we will have to look at those because of the opposition.

Stephen Harper and the former government were going to put a toll on the Champlain Bridge. This government removed that toll, and the building of the bridge is going forward. Could the member explain why he felt the Harper government was correct in instituting a toll on that particular bridge?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I only spoke for 20 minutes, which is not a filibuster, at least not by my standards. I think the member knows that. We are discussing an important issue of public concern, which is infrastructure. I know the government is embarrassed to have discussions about its approach to infrastructure because it is failing so badly to deliver on the commitments it made.

With respect to Bill C-92, the member for Winnipeg North feels the urgency of the issue. It is an urgent issue to discuss, yet the government, in spite of this talk today about the urgency of the issue, failed to bring forward legislative proposals for three and a half years. The bill has been tabled before the House for a total of four sitting days, including today. The government's lack of action on this does not obviate the need for significant discussion around the bill. Some of that discussion needs to take place internally before the bill is debated. Members need a bit of an opportunity to review the bill, of course, as well as for the debate to come before the House. That is part of the appropriate process of due scrutiny.

If the member for Winnipeg North wanted to see the bill pass earlier, his government should have proposed the bill at an earlier stage. As well, on the issues he is talking about relating to reconciliation, the government had somebody in cabinet with an indigenous background and significant experience within indigenous politics and who I think would have been a voice around the cabinet table and reflected that experience. The sniping we have seen toward that former minister is indicative of where the government is actually sitting when it comes to the issue of reconciliation.

On the issue of the toll, when the government makes spending commitments way outside the framework of a balanced budget, unfortunately Canadians cannot have confidence that it will follow through. It has made so many promises that it has not followed through on. This government has out-of-control deficits and promises that there will not be a toll, yet it is nowhere near meeting its spending commitments. The government promised a balanced budget in this budget being presented today. We will see if there is a balanced budget later today. I somehow doubt it. Canadians have a lack of confidence in the government's commitments because it just does not have the discipline when it comes to spending to follow through.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / noon
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

I have noticed that his speeches are generally very detailed and well-researched. However, it is still important to point out that, generally speaking, the Conservative Party is known for its rather aggressive and somewhat crass approach. We cannot help but notice that the current approach taken by the Conservative Party is putting the Liberal Party in a very difficult position. Generally speaking, the Liberals signal left during elections and then turn right once they take office. We currently have a government that has done nothing about the things that it said were important priorities.

The member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, my neighbour's colleague, talked about the indigenous languages act yesterday. A total of 23 new amendments to the bill were flippantly proposed during the clause-by-clause study. That is reckless. It is obvious the file is being mismanaged when we look at the differences between the bill and what was said, namely that indigenous languages are so important to the Liberals and that this is such an important issue for them. Bill C-92 is a perfect example of this.

I would like my colleague to explain why the Liberal government does not take control instead of blaming the Conservatives. The government has everything it needs to do that, so that we can talk about Bill C-92.

Our parliamentary secretary said that there are only 49 sitting days left. It is shameful that the government waited so long to study such an important bill.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / noon
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member wants to talk about the budget. In fact, we wish that is what we could be talking about. Whether it is Bill C-92 or the budget, it is good stuff.

We can take a look at the Conservatives versus the Liberals on budget-related issues. We have made solid commitments to the Canada child benefit, lifting thousands of children out of poverty, and the guaranteed income supplement, lifting thousands of seniors out of poverty. We have invested in health care, in infrastructure, and we have invested and worked with provinces to develop a plan on CPP and on the price on pollution. These are all wonderful, progressive things.

I, like the member opposite, look forward to the budget, because I think we will see a continuation of the strengthening of Canada's middle class, those aspiring to be a part of it and those who are in need. These are really important issues for Canadians. I think we would both agree on that. There are issues such as the 900,000 jobs. Imagine all the taxes collected by those 900,000 new jobs.

Would the member not agree that the budget does matter?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
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Marco Mendicino Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the opposition motion to concur in the report submitted by the Auditor General with respect to the Champlain Bridge, which is an important infrastructure project that dates back some years.

I wish I could say that I am pleased to do so. However, the timing of this Conservative motion is interesting and curious, given the government's business of the day, which includes important historic legislation with respect to indigenous youth and children as well as the Minister of Finance's budget for this fiscal year, 2019, which Canadians depend on us to put forward so that we can continue to deliver results.

There has been a lot of commentary recently about how we do politics in this country and in the House. I think Canadians will judge the opposition, which says today that it is holding the government to account. I question Conservatives on that assertion, because it is really just the opposition doing more of the same.

This attempt to disguise as legitimate the debate about concurrence in a report—a report that was itself the subject of debate before the transportation committee some time ago—is actually just a naked and transparent effort to obstruct and disrupt the business of Canadians, the business of the government. Our government has been singularly focused on providing results with respect to the economy, trade, the environment, reconciliation, and criminal justice reform, all areas in which I believe we have made significant progress over the course of the last three and a half years. Along with my colleagues on this side of the aisle, I look forward with great enthusiasm to taking that record to the Canadian people this fall in the hope of earning the privilege to continue to govern on their behalf.

With respect to the concurrence report that the Conservatives have put back on the table, I begin by noting that it was a scathing indictment of the last Conservative government's handling and bungling of the award and procurement process to allow private developers to take the Champlain Bridge into the 21st century and beyond. There was a lethargy, a slowness, a lack of transparency in the way the Conservative government handled the procurement that cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars. The Conservatives' mishandling of this infrastructure project continues to cost Canadians.

Liberals have put it back on track under the leadership of successive ministers of infrastructure. I have the honour of serving with our current Minister of Infrastructure, who is from Quebec. He feels very strongly about this project. He has gone to visit the workers, employees and hopefully one day the pensioners, who are ensuring that people in Quebec, and indeed all Canadians, can traverse this bridge knowing that they will be safe and secure and that they can get to and from their destinations over the course of the year, whether for work or with families, in a way that is fast and efficient. This is a result of the work on the government side.

I will speak at greater length about the concurrence report later in my remarks, but I want to begin by pointing out that the cost of the Conservatives' efforts to delay the government's business is very significant. Why?

We are in the course of debating Bill C-92, which, as I said earlier, is historic legislation that would help move forward the endeavour of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. It would ensure that we recognize their inherent right to self-government and self-determination on a matter that is so important and that disproportionately touches so many young indigenous children's lives. This has resulted from the barriers that have been erected within our system, consciously in the earliest days of this federation and less consciously and more systemically and subconsciously over time, but no less requiring significant action.

How will Bill C-92 allow us to move forward in a way that is positive and constructive?

Well, first it is important to point out that this is a piece of legislation that was co-developed with indigenous peoples, first nations organizations and stakeholders in a spirit of good faith and in a manner that would recognize the cardinal principle that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determine their own journey and path to success in this country. Without recognizing that, without understanding and appreciating that principle, all efforts will be undermined.

This legislation, then, was not simply the creation of a government that was insular and refused to reach out—quite the contrary. There were sincere efforts to co-develop and co-design this legislation, and this was a historic turning point for a matter that touches the lives of many indigenous children. To shed some light on the kinds of numbers we are talking about here, the overrepresentation of first nations, Inuit and Métis children in the child and family services system is not insignificant. That group represents 7.7% of the overall population in Canada but accounts for 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes.

That is a breathtaking number, a tragic number, and the objective of this legislation is to reduce that number as much as we possibly can.

How will we do so? It will be by ensuring that the best interests of indigenous children and youth are—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:15 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, of course I know that the hon. colleague who just posed the question would have heard a number of remarks I made at the outset of my commentary today and would know that I would be returning to the report. I would dispute my colleague's contention of the opportunity lost today to discuss the other government business, which is indeed of great importance to Canadians, including Bill C-92 and including the budget, which we are all very keen to hear about. Even some of her colleagues, in earlier exchanges within the context of the concurrence debate, which has been put forward by the Conservatives, accepted that it is of great significance that we get to debating the budget.

Let me round out my comments with regard to Bill C-92 with something that the hon. colleague who just posed the question is familiar with.

I was speaking about the importance of enshrining as a principle the best interests of indigenous children in the child and family services system. This legislation would help do that. It would also ensure that we are living up to our commitments under UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I note that it was something that the hon. colleague who just posed the question voted against, as did all of her Conservative colleagues. That was indeed regrettable, because we must ensure that Canada is making the strides that are necessary to achieve meaningful reconciliation, including responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, which again the Conservatives have found it quite difficult to come to grips with. There was also their reticence under the last administration to call for an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women and children.

Those are concrete examples of how the Conservatives have seemingly found it difficult to make it right with indigenous peoples.

Conversely, on this side of the House, we understand that in order to make the progress that is necessary to make it right with indigenous peoples, we have to embrace those very principles and those initiatives, which we are doing, including with Bill C-92.

We also would not be able to move forward, if the Conservatives were to have their druthers and their way, with the budget. I am not going to pre-empt the Minister of Finance; certainly we do look forward to hearing from him at some point today on the next concrete steps that we will take to ensure that Canada is on a strong economic footing. However, it is worth pointing out just how strong this government's record has been with regard to the economy.

In 2015 we asked Canadians to trust us with the stewardship of the economy so that we could ensure that Canadians could have every conceivable opportunity to achieve success. How did we start delivering? The very first thing is that we provided for a tax cut for approximately nine million middle-class Canadians, and by doing so we put more money in their pockets. How much more? Later this year, an average family of four will have approximately $2,000 more in their pockets, money that they can spend on school supplies, on camps, on recreation, on clothing, on all of life's necessities. That is as a result of both the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit plan, which has put more disposable income into the households of nine out of 10 families, something that we should be very proud of.

We have also reduced taxes for small businesses. I know that the Conservatives like to brand themselves as the great captains of enterprise and like to pitch that they support small business, but this government actually walks the walk when it comes to important policy decisions. We were very happy to see that the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, came out as very supportive of reducing the small business tax rate to 9%, beginning on the first day of 2019.

We also have a serious plan when it comes to climate change. On the Conservative benches I can hear some of my friends chortling and heckling and I know it is all in good spirit and good humour, at least for the most part, but the reality is that within their own ranks they still have a hard time admitting that climate change is real, notwithstanding the fact that there is nearly unanimous evidence and science to back up that claim.

I think that explains why they are so reluctant to put forward any plan, let alone a serious one, that would do the kinds of concrete things that are required to protect the environment, while at the same time ensuring economic prosperity.

For our part, in addition to taking serious action to protect our marine habitat and our coastlines to the tune of nearly $2 billion, we have also introduced historic legislation that would ensure there would be environmental protections and assessments in place. That was again backed by evidence. We worked with scientists and experts in the area. I know the Conservatives do not seem to like to refer to or give any acknowledgement to scholars. That seems to be quite difficult for them.

However, we worked with scientists and experts because we knew that by listening to them and by respecting their work, we were in a far better position to introduce legislation that is principled, like Bill C-69, which will ensure that there are environmental processes and assessments in place.

We are also putting a price on pollution. Once more, I would point out that there is nearly unanimous consensus that this is a smart way to go to reduce the amount of pollution in our environment. We will not hear any of that coming from the Conservatives. That again is a demonstration of how difficult it is for them to move forward with protecting our environment and acknowledging that climate change is real.

On trade, we are the only G7 country to have a fair trade approach with every other G7 country. That is something to be quite pleased with. Our work in renegotiating NAFTA and our work in implementing CETA in Europe has all been to the good in enhancing and increasing consumer choice and expanding jobs.

On that point, and with respect to the budget, close to one million new jobs have been created since we took the reins of the government in 2015. That is far better than what Canadians were under the last Conservative government, which had the worst record for economic growth since the Great Depression. It is an ignominious record, which demonstrates how we are focused on actually producing results while they falter.

All of the examples I have put forward are a demonstration as to why the Conservatives do not want to talk about the budget and do not want to talk about Bill C-92. They do not want to talk about anything that reflects on the positive work. It is about obstructing and it is about obstructing the work of Canadians.

On the concurrence report, I know my Conservative colleagues are quite keen to talk about this matter today as opposed to what was the subject of debate and discussion at the parliamentary committee for transportation and, if I am not mistaken, already agreed to by the Conservatives, notwithstanding the fact that the Auditor General was very critical of the Conservative government's handling of the Champlain Bridge.

By way of background, the Champlain Bridge was less than 50 years old, but it had deteriorated very badly. At this point, I will quote from from the Auditor General's report. It stated:

Heavy investments were required to repair and maintain it. If a structural problem forced the bridge to close, the four other river crossings in the area could not accommodate the displaced traffic without significant congestion. Even partial closures for brief periods or load restrictions could significantly affect the flow of people and goods through the region, and also affect the economy.

With respect to the procurement, I want to read from section 4.5 of the report and I will move on from there to conclude my remarks. This is with regard to the Conservatives' handling of the procurement of a private partner to do the work that was necessary to improve the Champlain Bridge. It states, “The government”, and that is the Conservative government, “ signed a contract, dated 16 June 2015, with Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group” or SSL as it is referred to. It went on to say:

The private partner undertook to deliver the project for just under $4 billion, excluding the government’s project management and land acquisition costs...The contract called for the new bridge to be ready for use by 1 December 2018. It included a 42-month construction period and a 30-year operation and maintenance period.

It goes on to state:

To manage the project, an integrated team of officials was drawn from five federal organizations:

From 2011 to 2014, Transport Canada was responsible for planning for the replacement of the bridge.

Infrastructure Canada took over in 2014.

Public Services and Procurement was the federal contracting authority for the project.

What did the Auditor General conclude with regard to the Conservatives' handling of the project? The Auditor General found that the Government of Canada, the Conservative government of the day, was slow in making the decision to invest in the new bridge instead of maintaining the existing one. This finding matters because the delay in decision-making entailed avoidable expenditures of more than $500 million.

It is rather curious that the Conservatives seemingly now want to draw attention to the fact that they slow-played the procurement process as a means of slow-playing the budget that we want to deliver, which will ensure there are more jobs, more opportunities and more prosperity for Canadians. What irony. What a demonstration that Conservatives have not taken any of the lessons that were handed to them in 2015.

It is regrettable and it is disappointing. I do hope we can move on from the debate of this concurrence report, so we can get back to Bill C-92 and budget 2019. That is what Canadians want us to do.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what was a tangential reflection of what this debate is about. However, I noted the member talked about Bill C-92. Are the Liberals avoiding debating the bill because they are worried there are so many flaws in it, like in Bill C-91? It was unheard of that the government actually had to table over 30 amendments at clause by clause.

Are Liberals trying to avoid discussing Bill C-92 because they are worried they have again created legislation with so many flaws in it that they will be truly embarrassed when we have witnesses at committee pointing out all those important flaws in that legislation?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, we actually tabled Bill C-92 yesterday.

It is the height of irony that during my remarks, when I began to talk about Bill C-92, that member across the way was admonishing me for raising Bill C-92 instead of talking about the concurrence report with regard to the procurement of a private developer on the Champlain Bridge, for which, the government of the day was heavily criticized by the Auditor General. Now the member is coming back to me, asking me why I did not speak more about Bill C-92. The member just interrupted me, and now wants me to return to the very matter which she wanted me to move on from.

Having said that, I am happy to talk about Bill C-92. This is historic legislation. It is historic because we co-developed it with indigenous peoples, because we reached out in good faith to organizations like the AFN and to local leaders, as well as local chiefs, to ensure that their voices were heard in the best interests of indigenous young children and youth, who are disproportionately overrepresented in our child and family services justice system. That is the work they need us to do, and we desperately want to do it.

I wish my hon. colleague would get her messages straight.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, that answer makes no sense. That is at least the third Liberal speech I have heard where they say they want to talk about another bill. Then why do they keep making speeches? Why do they not use the tools they have at their disposal starting at the next intervention to move on to consideration of Bill C-92 if it is so important?

I have a hard time believing that the Liberals truly want to talk about Bill C-92 when it took them so long to introduce it in the House of Commons. The Liberals are doing nothing right now to move on to consideration of Bill C-92.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the New Democrats have finally followed the debate from yesterday and now have recognized the Conservatives' intent to prevent us from debating Bill C-92. I hope the NDP will be consistent in ensuring we can make progress on Bill C-92 and other important government legislation.

It has become clear that the Conservatives only desire is to be as disruptive as possible on all government initiatives because they do not want to talk about the good, progressive policy initiatives in legislation or even in a budget to be presented later today.

With the official opposition in its own wonderland, trying to ramp up some sort of rhetoric on an issue that is not relevant in the minds of Canadians, could my colleague provide his thoughts on why it is so important we as government continue to remain focused on Canadians?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of deviation by the member in terms of the subject matter she wants to question me about. First it was the concurrence report, then Bill C-92 and now the subject matter that is before the justice committee. Talk about being all over the map. This is another attempt to obstruct and disrupt, which is what we see from the Conservatives.

With regard to the work of the justice committee, it is operating independently. I am proud of the work that the Liberal members of Parliament have done on the committee. Indeed, they partnered in many meaningful ways with their Conservative and NDP colleagues with regard to the material witnesses who would be called. Canadians are better off knowing more about what occurred over the last number of months with regard to the SNC affair. That is a good thing. There is also the Ethics Commissioner's inquiry in which, again, witnesses will have every opportunity to provide evidence.

However, the Conservatives' efforts to deviate from the work of this government, which is singularly focused on Canadians, will not succeed, because we have the best team, the best ideas and the best leader. That is what Canadians can count on going forward.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will come back to what I said earlier, which speaks to the core of both Bill C-92, for our colleagues across the way, as well as the motion that we have before us. It is about trust and the lack of trust that Canadians have with the Prime Minister and indeed his team.

We are at a crisis of confidence right now. I am fairly young, but I remember a show called “I Dream of Jeannie”. It is like the Liberals are trying to change the channel with a click and they are trying to change the narrative. Every time they try to do that it is because they don't want Canadians hearing the message that we have to say, because it is the truth.

Our colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands does not often stand up in defence of the official opposition, the Conservatives, but we heard that earlier today when she asked how we had arrived at where we are today. It is because of the heavy-handed efforts and tactics that the Liberals and the government have used on the justice committee by not allowing testimony. All they need to do is to let her speak. Let the former attorney general speak.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the final six minutes I have, I will tie this back to the debate. If only our colleagues across the way could just have trust that I am going to do that.

I want to bring up a comment that our colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence said in his intervention. He noted that today is a day when Canadians expect Liberals to deliver. Do Canadians not expect the Liberals to deliver every day? Sadly, we have not seen it. They want to change the channel.

I am going to bring the House back to the early days of the government, when it introduced its Motion No. 6 to try to change the Standing Orders and our procedures. At that time, a minister was found guilty of using a limousine as a preferred choice of transportation and billing the taxpayers for that. We also found out that the finance minister had a French villa and he was found guilty. The Prime Minister was the first prime minister in the history of our country to be found guilty of ethics violations. I also have to mention the clam scam, which involved a former fisheries minister. They were all found guilty.

Now I will get to where we are today. Why do we find it challenging to believe what the Liberals say they are going to do? It is because they have not done it.

I would like now to talk about Bill C-92, which is what our colleagues across the way want. My comments are relevant, as it has been entered into the debate a few times.

I want to remind Canadians that it was the former Conservative government that signed a bilateral agreement with B.C., my home province, in 2012-13 to reimburse B.C. for child welfare services provided to 72 first nations communities. In our record as a Conservative team, we actually took into account the child welfare challenges.

I also want to bring our colleagues across the way back to—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
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Dan Vandal

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As parliamentary secretary to indigenous services, I note that we were here at 10 a.m. to discuss this important bill, Bill C-92, which is about indigenous child welfare. Those on the other side did not want to discuss it. They wanted to discuss the Champlain Bridge. Now the member opposite wants to talk about Bill C-92.

This is completely inappropriate. We should have been talking about Bill C-92 as of 10 a.m., but the Conservatives did not want to do this. The member opposite does not get the opportunity now to discuss Bill C-92, when we have not introduced it.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, for anybody watching this debate, I am sure it is not with great amusement.

The Liberals object to opposition members not talking about the Champlain Bridge, but they are definitely not talking about the Champlain Bridge when they stand to speak on this matter. They are talking about everything from Islamophobia to who knows what. The incredible thing is that the government has asserted its powers over and over again at committee and in this place to cut off debate. Liberals have the power to move a motion to adjourn the debate and go to the orders of the day. In this particular instance, they claim their priority is to talk about Bill C-92, yet they have sat there for how many hours now, choosing not to assert those powers for what they claim is a top priority: the rights and interests of indigenous children in Canada.

The big question I would put to my colleague is this. Why do the Liberals not want to talk about the Champlain Bridge and if they do not want to talk about the Champlain Bridge, why are they not asserting their powers in this instance instead of asserting their powers to shut down discussion about SNC-Lavalin at committee?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 1 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, members on the other side of the House really need to give their heads a shake. Think about it. For the last two days, the Minister of Indigenous Services and Liberal members have wanted to talk about Bill C-92, but the opposition continues to frustrate the debate by filibustering, by putting forward motions like the one today to talk about the Champlain Bridge. That is today; yesterday it was something else. They do not want to debate substantive legislation.

On one hand, opposition members say the Liberal government always uses tools to prevent them from speaking and, on the other hand, they ask why the Liberals are not using those tools. They are challenging us to do something they do not want us—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I tried talking about the topic the Liberals wanted us to talk about early on, but there were five points of order. They did not want Canadians to hear the message we had regarding Bill C-92, apparently.

My hon. colleague across the way likes to scream and yell and perhaps Canadians will believe him a little more by doing that, but Canadians can see through this veil of the Liberals protesting far too much. They are not telling the truth and Canadians deserve the truth. All they need to do is to allow the former attorney general to speak.

An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Seamus O'Regan Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

moved that Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to open second reading debate on Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Before I go any further, it is important to recognize that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

My remarks today will focus on three key areas: first, how Bill C-92 aligns with this government's commitment to renewal of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples; second, the importance of child welfare generally and the necessity of cultural protections in child welfare regimes; and third, how implementation of this bill would allow for greater protection of vulnerable children, youth and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.

I cannot in good conscience stand in this House today without recognizing the important work done by the member for Markham—Stouffville. The member got us started on this road, and we cannot forget her accomplishments as Canada's first minister of indigenous services. We are very grateful for what she did during her time.

While we are providing credit where it is due, I must acknowledge the role of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in bringing the bill forward. Her commitment to renewing the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples is clear and it is unflagging. It is my pleasure to stand and recognize her contributions to the co-development of this important legislation.

Earlier I mentioned how Bill C-92 aligns with the government's progress on renewing Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. Canadians are increasingly aware that indigenous issues are Canadian issues, that indigenous issues are critical to this country and that indigenous issues must be addressed. This government continues its strong commitment to these issues, because Canadians want it, because this country needs it and because, fundamentally, it is the right thing to do.

We have made historic investments to build and repair thousands of new and safe housing units in indigenous communities, like those I witnessed recently in Cat Lake. More importantly, we are delivering those investments through a new distinctions-based approach. There is no more one-size-fits-all approach that is supposed to work from southwestern B.C. to the far reaches of the Arctic to the tip of coastal Labrador. We have partnered with indigenous people to create a first nations-led housing strategy, the Inuit Nunangat housing strategy, and the Métis Nation's housing strategy.

All Canadians should have access to safe, clean drinking water. We are committed to delivering on that, and we are on track to be able to lift long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on reserve by the end of March 2021, as planned.

We continue to invest in infrastructure in indigenous communities, including roads, schools, recreation centres and aerodromes, to name just a few. We are doing so because we realize that efficient infrastructure helps communities prosper. Thriving communities lead to activities, initiatives and growth that create economic development opportunities.

We know that the long shadow cast by decades of neglect will not be erased overnight. It will be difficult to reverse, but it is possible. It is essential that we take these steps now and in partnership, not with paternalism.

This government and this Prime Minister have committed, since the beginning, to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. This bill is a wonderful example of this, and it is my hope, through this debate and with the support of members on all sides of this House, and in the other place, that with it ultimately passing, this bill could serve as an example of the type of work we need to continue doing.

Before getting into the minutiae of the bill before the House today, I think there may be some value in pulling back a little and speaking generally about child welfare and the emerging recognition of the importance of cultural stability being provided to children who are in care.

Interestingly enough, March is National Social Work Month in Canada. I say that because I think it is important for us to take a moment during this debate to acknowledge and appreciate the professional duties executed by social workers day in and day out right across this country. They are often placed in settings that most Canadians do not even know exist, and they are often forced to make difficult choices across stark options. They work within systems, and the decisions they make are often mandated by those systems. I want to be clear that when we talk about the need to address systemic faults, we do so without unduly criticizing those who work within those systems.

All that is to say that there is increasing acknowledgement in both the academic and operational worlds that current child welfare systems are failing indigenous youth.

Consider that less than 8% of this country's population is indigenous, but indigenous children make up 52% of children in care. That statistic is horrifying. That statistic is appalling. However, that is only part of the story. Far too frequently, non-indigenous social workers come into communities that are not theirs, apply an artificial standard without any context for the communities they are in, and take children away from their mothers, grandmothers and aunties. They take them away from their cousins and their classmates and bring them to another place where they are supposedly safe. They are safe, but alone; safe, but isolated from their culture; safe, but ultimately terrified. This happens because a child protection system built on a western and urban model has no place in indigenous communities.

Let us use my home province as an example. In Newfoundland and Labrador, once the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development has made the determination that a child is in need of protective intervention, it assesses the availability of placement options. It is a four-level continuum that starts with family-based placements, then moves to non-family-based foster homes, then eventually moves to staffed residential placements. The issue, of course, is that in small isolated communities like Nain or Natuashish, the availability of placement options is exceptionally limited. That holds true whether or not a small community is an indigenous community. The smaller the town, the fewer the options.

What ends up happening, of course, is that kids who need protective intervention generally have to move away from their towns and into larger areas. If children are taken away from their families and placed with strangers, that has an incredibly traumatic impact on them as children. If children are taken away from their families and placed in a town where no one looks like them or sounds like them and no one understands where they are from, well, members get the picture.

Existing systems too often place a priority on an urban definition of “safety” while ignoring the developmental necessity of culture, of community, of language and of a sense of belonging. No good comes from stripping away children from everything and everyone they know. Sometimes it may be necessary, but it should not be the standard course of action. Unless we change how we operate child welfare for indigenous communities, we will continue to cause serious harm to individuals and communities.

This is beyond unacceptable. This is a humanitarian crisis. We must act. With the proposed bill in place, we would have a path forward with which we could achieve the fundamental reform required.

Let me turn our attention to how implementation of this bill would allow for greater protection of vulnerable indigenous children, youth, and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.

First and foremost, Bill C-92 would help to ensure that indigenous child and family services would be based firmly on putting the child first, not on the convenience of the system; that they would be fully aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; a that we would provide clear affirmation of the inherent right of first nations, Inuit and Métis to exercise their jurisdiction in relation to child and family services, enabling communities to not only administer prevention and protection programs and services that reflect their customs, practices and traditions but to also enact laws in this area if they decided to do so.

The proposed process would not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Indigenous peoples could exercise partial or full jurisdiction over child and family services at their own pace. This would enable indigenous people to tailor the exercise of their jurisdiction to their needs.

In this legislation, we are setting out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to indigenous children and families. These principles would help ensure that indigenous children and their families would be treated with dignity and that their rights would be preserved. Some of these principles, for example, would help to ensure that indigenous children were not taken into care based on socioeconomic conditions alone, as is happening right now. If children were apprehended, it would be in their best interest, and they would be placed with a family member or within the immediate community.

Rather than a system designed to respond to crises, we must enable a system focused on prevention. This legislation emphasizes the need for the system to shift from apprehension to prevention, with priority given to services that promote preventative care to support families. It gives priority to services like pre-natal care and support for parents. We know, academics know and front-line professionals know that preventative care is a leading indicator of child success and positive development.

The provisions in the bill respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families mark the beginning of a 180-degree turn, a turn away from a system that allowed residential schools to happen.

Bill C-92 also demonstrates the importance of a collaborative approach when looking at how legislation impacting indigenous peoples is developed. This legislation flows from an intensive period of engagement with first nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, communities and individuals, including the provinces and territories. This engagement would continue in the development and implementation of a new child and family services system, which the bill would enable.

Indigenous families and communities are being torn apart. Indigenous children are being taken from their families and communities and deprived of their language and culture. Their rights as members of indigenous communities, as children and as human beings have been trampled on for too long.

This bill is in line with our government's commitment to a renewed relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples.

The bill recognizes the current systemic issues in child protection generally and reinforces the necessity of cultural protections in child welfare systems.

The bill would allow for greater promotion of vulnerable children, youth and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.

Where capacity exists to build safe spaces for children and youth, where aunties, uncles, cousins and friends can come together in mutual support, and where communities want to end a cycle of child removal that creates lasting and widespread trauma, no children should be removed to spend their formative years in isolation, away from the supports they need to get the best start in life, away from the places where they belong. For children to go out and make their way in the world, they must know their place in the world. They must know where they are from. They must know where they belong. They must know who they are.

Time is of the essence. We must work collaboratively and effectively. We must maintain this momentum. We must see this through. An entire generation of indigenous children and youth are counting on us to get this right, and we cannot let them down.

There can be no greater measure of a society than how we treat our most vulnerable, how we treat our children. Today we can stand a little taller, because today we are moving to make it right. We are working to make it right.

I urge all members to join me in moving toward an end to this crisis with their support for Bill C-92.

An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to rise in the debate on Bill C-92 today. I note there is concern that the the bill is arriving so late in this parliamentary agenda. There are only 10 weeks left. This was promised a number of months ago, and it finally was tabled just recently.

Having said that, we intend to be productive and proactive in supporting this, at least in principle, and seeing where we can go. Again, the government has a history of having important principles, but those principles have not always translated into legislation.

We all know the tragedy and the genesis for that, based in the residential school system, based in the sixties scoop, and it predates many of those issues. Again, I always like to reflect on my own experiences.

In the 1980s, as a nurse moving into a community, I was told that social and child welfare workers were not welcomed on reserve because they took their kids and so they could not come onto the reserve. In actual fact, the social workers of the provinces did not go onto the band lands at that time.

I look at where British Columbia, as an example, has come since that time, from a place where it was a very tense, taut relationship that could have ended in violence had people entered band lands. It ended up in a better place. Every province is a bit different in where people have ended up.

In the riding I represent in Kamloops, Secwépemc Child & Family Services now provides services both on and off reserve for its community members. For those people, this bill would be another step forward in the evolution of what the service is doing and how it is doing it. Certainly I want to congratulate the communities for coming such a long way from the 1980s to where we are in the 2000s. Things are not where they need to be, but they are certainly much better than they were.

I want to also make a contrast. We do not know the whole story, but many of us saw the video at Christmas time, showing the removal of a newborn baby from her mother and her family. Again, we do not know the back story, but we all looked to that and felt grief and wondered what had happened and what needed to be done to make it better.

The minister talked about the social workers and held them up with respect to working under the structures of the day, for which the government needs to be responsible. I also want to acknowledge adoptive parents across the country who opened up their hearts and their homes. Maybe they could not have a family of their own and they wanted one to love. They wanted to do the right thing. I want to hold them up because many families adopted children and many fostered children. In the community I represent, many of these families tried their best to ensure the children remained connected with their culture and kept the ties.

As we move forward, this is not about not respecting the work that social workers have done and not about not respecting the families that have adopted children. It is about knowing we can do better, that there are ways we can focus on prevention and do better for the children. Keeping them and supporting them connected to their culture and community is absolutely critical.

The Minister of Indigenous Services acknowledged the work of the former minister. In January 2018, an emergency meeting was held with Indigenous Services, the federal and provincial counterparts.

At that time, they all recognized that they needed to shift the programming focus to prevention, early intervention, supporting communities to draw down the jurisdiction and exploring the potential for co-developed child legislation, which is, of course, what we are here to talk about today.

Before I talk specifically about some of the technical details in the proposed legislation, I think it is important to reflect on the past government's record in this area. The Liberals like to portray themselves as the only people who have ever cared about this issue, the only group that has actually moved forward, recognizing that this is an important issue. It has been an evolution. I explained how it was in the 1980s. However, I will look at what the record was in terms of the evolution of the former government.

We signed a bilateral agreement with B.C. in 2012-13 to reimburse B.C. for the child welfare services that it provided to the 72 first nations. The funding streams were similar to what first nations and child and family services agencies received under directive 20-1, which goes way back. It provided a lot more flexibility with respect to the funding arrangement and the increased amount of funding that was available.

We also started what we called the enhanced prevention focused approach, which was launched in 2007 in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia; Quebec and P.E.I. in 2009; and Manitoba in 2019. This EPF approach was intended to provide a more flexible funding model and refocus child welfare to a family-centred practice with child-centred outcomes. It relied on a more intensive involvement of social workers to provide support before families reached a crisis. It was intended to reduce the need for placement of children, but where placement was necessary, it also explicitly favoured kinship and community placement over foster care and institutional care. It also started tracking meaningful performance indicators.

Members can see that we had taken some principles that had been evolving over time. Again, some provinces are certainly more advanced in working in partnership with their first nations communities and the federal government. However, we put it into legislation. Moving those principles into legislation and reaffirming the jurisdiction cleared up a whole lot of confusion that might have been there in the past.

Again, there was talk about the funding. The funding did change significantly over that time. Of course, it needed more enhancement, but there was a 50% increase in funding. However, more important is that there were some results. We saw the percentage of children who were placed in foster care decrease. I would find it very valuable to get from the minister the trend line to see if it is still heading in the right direction. The percentage of children in kinship care increased and, again, we saw some changes in the proper direction. My point is that we are talking about what has been too slow an evolution, but certainly, hopefully, an evolution in the appropriate direction.

What would the bill before us actually do? This is where I think there is going to be a lot scrutiny, not only in the House at second reading debate but, importantly, in committee where we get those experts to come and share with us what is good about the bill and where it has not been crafted in a way that would do the job.

The bill would affirm the jurisdiction of indigenous peoples in relation to child and family services, which has always been a very difficult grey area because the provinces have said that, under the Constitution, we need to be responsible and the federal government has been inconsistent in its role. Sometimes the government says it provides services on reserve but does not have responsibility off reserve, so it is very confusing. The bill needs to affirm the jurisdiction and to get rid of the confusion between the provinces and the federal government.

The bill sets out really important principles, such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality, which is applicable on a national level to the provision of child and family services in relation to indigenous children.

The key elements of the bill that we have talked about are that it would affirm the jurisdiction of indigenous peoples to make laws in relation to child and family services, along with the authority to administer and enforce these laws consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would commit to not interfering with existing rights in self-government agreements enacted by indigenous governing bodies regarding child and family services. That is an area we need to delve into. If relationships have already been established, we need to make sure it does not erode things that are working well and moving forward.

The area that Conservatives are concerned about is that it be binding on the provinces and territories. I do not think there are any challenges in terms of communities on reserve taking care of their memberships off reserve where they have drawn down services, but I hope the Liberal majority will allow constitutional experts and the provincial ministers to talk about the constitutionality of that particular issue. When a province provides services, is there agreement with all of the provinces in terms of the bill and is it constitutional to impose it on them when they have the jurisdiction for delivering services? I am not a legal expert, but it is a question I have about the bill and a legitimate question to ask. We need clarity. We need to make sure we are being consistent.

The bill includes a rule of precedence, which would stipulate that where indigenous governing bodies have made laws with respect to child and family services, they would have precedence over other laws relating to child and family services where conflicts arise. This is among the key elements.

Again, I am disappointed. I am disappointed that it has taken so long to table the bill. There is an agreement in the House that when a bill is tabled on a Thursday, my caucus gets to look at that bill on Wednesday so that all of my caucus members have the benefit of understanding what the bill looks like before it is debated in the House. That agreement is pretty fundamental to the proper functioning of the House and the Liberal government violated that agreement with this legislation. It was tabled on a Thursday and there has been no caucus meeting since. There was a commitment that we would discuss the bill after we had caucus meetings.

This is following a pattern. Because the Liberals have not been able to manage their House time, it does not constitute an emergency on our part and they should be respectful. If they want co-operation, they need to respect these basic elements and provide us an opportunity. For many years, members have respected the Wednesday rule and Liberals regularly violate it.

My other concern I talked about before. When Bill S-3 was introduced, it was great. The bill was a response to gender inequity in some legislation and the Liberals guaranteed us there would be technical briefings. In the House, they guaranteed they had fixed the problem. What happened? When we went into committee, we started to identify flaw after flaw after flaw.

The indigenous languages legislation was tabled in the House. The Liberals said it was co-developed and everything was great. We started to hear witnesses at committee, and there was flaw after flaw after flaw. There were 30 amendments, and I have said this a number of times today. It is unheard of for a government to have to make 30 fixes to its own legislation, and those 30 fixes were tabled late. It did not even meet the deadline. They have to table it in committee on the day we are heading into clause-by-clause. It is unheard of incompetence.

We support the principle. We want the legislation to move forward. We want to see things improve. However, we are a little leery of the ability and the competence of the government to get it right.

An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2019 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I must say I am cautiously optimistic about the potential support from official opposition members for this legislation.

I am glad the member mentioned the co-development process. As the member perhaps mentioned in her speech, this bill has been in the works for approximately a year. There have been unprecedented consultations with the indigenous community. I believe there were upwards of 70 meetings with thousands of individuals who were consulted on the legislation. In fact, Senator Murray Sinclair, former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has said that the consultations that were done for Bill C-92 are a model for implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action in a meaningful and direct way.

That encourages me, as do the comments that were made. I am wondering if the member could comment on the importance of the consultation for this bill.

An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise and speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, particularly today, a historic day, when we are dealing with the need to reform the badly broken child welfare system and Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

I will say at the outset that we have waited a long time for this legislation. However, it has to be done right, because Canada has not earned the trust to have the right to make decisions about indigenous children. If we are going to move forward, we need to see a firm legislative commitment from the government that it will live up to its obligations, because we are talking about the lives of children.

I want to begin by mentioning some of these children who have died in the last two years. Tammy Keeash was taken from her home, where she was poor and indigenous, by a state that said it would keep her safe. She was found dead in the McIntyre Floodway in Thunder Bay. She was 14 years old. There was Chantel Fox; Kanina Sue Turtle; Jolynn Winter; Jenera Roundsky; Azraya Kokopenace; Courtney Scott, from Fort Albany; and Tina Fontaine.

I have met the Kokopenace family in Grassy Narrows. It is a family that has been poisoned by the corporate crimes in Grassy Narrows, where 80% of the children are suffering from contamination and poison. Little Azraya was taken from her family to be made safe, and she was found dead on the streets of Kenora.

Courtney Scott was taken from Fort Albany and died thousands of kilometres from home. I heard her younger sister speak. What she said of the treatment of indigenous children today, in 2019, in the child welfare system, will shock Canadians. They have to understand that what happened with the abuse in the residential schools is going on today.

Our nation has been very moved by the story of Chanie Wenjack. We all thought how amazing was this moment of Canada coming together to hear the story of that little boy trying to get home to Marten Falls. However, there are 165,000 children like Chanie Wenjack who are trying to find their way home.

If we do one thing in this Parliament, we are going to make sure that the legislation is done right. We are not going to do what has been done year in, year out, decade after decade, which is nice words, positive talk and all the oversight from the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and all the great committees that have looked into the abuse and neglect of indigenous children. Children are still dying to this day and are continuing to die.

We will begin by talking about Tina Fontaine. I urge my colleagues to read the report on how the system failed little Tina. She was taken from her home by the white state. People promised that they would keep her safe. They put her up in a hotel and left her on the streets of Manitoba. The Manitoba government does not even track the number of children they leave in hotels. In her final days, when she was listed as a missing person, she had contact with paramedics, police and child welfare services, and not one of them came to her aid, even though it was known that she was being preyed upon by a 62-year-old meth addict. When she tried to get help, she was told to ride her bike to a shelter.

It was the state's obligation to protect this child, and she was found murdered in the Red River. I always think of the powerful words of Sergeant O’Donovan, who found her body. He said that if it had been a litter of puppies, Canadians would be outraged. However, it was just another little indigenous girl.

This is what we here today to talk about fixing. There are many elements in this bill that I think are very reassuring in terms of the language of indigenous control of indigenous communities. The right of indigenous families and communities to decide the future of their own children has to be the beginning of the end of colonialism, because colonialism was constructed on the destruction of the Indian family.

However, unless we see the legislative elements that actually force the federal government to live up to its obligations, we will not be all that much further ahead, because Canada as a nation has used great and beautiful words for a long time and has failed indigenous children. It has simply not earned the right to be trusted on this.

This bill today comes to us after five non-compliance orders by a human rights tribunal that has forced the government into compliance with its legal obligations. The previous government spent nearly $6 million fighting Cindy Blackstock.

Michael Wernick, who is now retired, was the deputy minister who was involved in spying on Cindy Blackstock, because the government saw a woman who was speaking up for children as a threat to the Government of Canada.

It did not start today and it did not start with the current government or the previous government or the government before that. It goes all the way back to the decision that was made in the taking of the land and the breaking of the treaties. The fundamental principle was to take the Indian children away from their families and to destroy who they were as a people, which meets one of the key international tests of genocide.

Duncan Campbell Scott did not invent the residential school system, but he certainly perfected it. When he was faced with the appalling deaths of children in the residential schools from the chronic, systemic, deliberate underfunding by the federal government, he said:

It is readily acknowledged that Indian Children lose their natural resistance to illness by habituating so closely in the residential schools and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this does not justify a change in the policy of this department which is geared toward a final solution of our Indian problem.

The term “final solution” was a homemade Canadian concept, and it was based on the destruction of the Indian people.

Why do we have to talk about history? It is one thing I have learned as a white guy. People say, “Why are we always talking about what happened back then?” We cannot go into any indigenous community without knowing how we got here. If we do not know how we got here, we do not know how we are going to go forward. It was the residential schools.

By the 1950s, the federal government realized that residential schools had been an abject failure, not for the abuse, the torture and the rape of the children, and not for the horrific low results of education. The government decided that it was a failure because it failed in its fundamental job of assimilation, so it decided to use the child welfare system. There was nothing accidental about the sixties scoop. The sixties scoop was a deliberate federal policy to take children far way from their identity and to basically turn them into white children.

In the book on residential schools by John Milloy, he writes:

Fostering was seen as a most effective method of breaking through the welfare bottleneck and ultimately, in tandem with integration, of closing [the residential] schools.... It had...the added allure of financial reward.... Children in foster homes could “be cared for less expensively since the maintenance costs are on the average less than for residential school placement”....

This was always the principle. It was about the destruction of identity while saving the taxpayers money. That is the fundamental principle that has led to the chronic underfunding of indigenous schools. It is the principle that has led to so much suffering and suicide in my own region, where we have had over 600 suicide deaths, almost entirely of youth, since the 1980s.

Governments in and governments out make all kinds of promises, but nothing changes. This was the fundamental principle Cindy Blackstock started to fight over 12 years ago with the federal government, that there was not anything accidental about what was happening in the child welfare system; it was a deliberate federal government policy of chronic underfunding by up to 40%.

At a certain point in the 1970s and 1980s, the government began to talk about indigenous control of child welfare, but the indigenous people were only allowed to control a broken, underfunded system. It is ironic that one of the only times the department of Indian affairs will agree to spend more money on children is when they are being taken from their families. That has been the policy. The sixties scoop has been called the millennial scoop. It is the 2018 and the 2019 scoop. There are more children in the control of the state now than there were at the height of the residential schools. The policies are still there.

When I see Bill C-92 and I hear talk about how we are going to move towards indigenous control and the indigenous right to develop their own family structures that are protected, where children are put into safe and culturally appropriate environments, I feel that is a great moment. However, if we do not see the legal statutory obligation of the federal government to close the funding gap, it is just a carry-on.

The ruling that the federal government was found guilty of systemic human rights abuse against indigenous children, in 2016, was a landmark moment, and I was very proud when the Prime Minister said that the government would not fight that ruling, but he did fight that ruling.

He fought that ruling to the tune of $1 million. He fought it through five non-compliance orders and each time the Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government was choosing its own financial interests over the interests of children. In the third non-compliance order, the tribunal found “the definition of Jordan’s Principle adopted by Canada was a calculated, analyzed and informed policy choice based on financial impacts and potential risks rather than on the needs or the best interests of First Nations children, which Jordan’s Principle is meant to protect and should be the goal of Canada’s programming”.

In that third non-compliance order the tribunal found Canada culpable in the deaths of Jenna Roundsky, Chantel Fox and Jolynn Winter because it knew that these children in Wapekeka were at risk. There was a suicide cluster and the government opted not to help those children because it said the funding request came at an awkward time. The government insisted that the lives of those children had to fit within the priorities of the Department of Indian Affairs, not that the Department of Indian Affairs was obligated to those children.

The Human Rights Tribunal found the government culpable in the deaths of these children. These were beautiful young children and they were loved. The failure of the government to respond in Wapekeka kicked off a horrific suicide crisis and we are still picking up the pieces.

I was in Thunder Bay with my good friend Sol Mamakwa, where we met with the family of a young suicide victim. How do we talk to a family in a community that has lost so many children? That child was taken from her family by the policies of this state and the Liberal government because it will not fund high schools in her community, so she was living in a boarding house at age 14 in Thunder Bay.

These are the ongoing deaths and suffering and abuse that result from this underfunding.

The fourth Human Rights Tribunal ruling found Canada's continued reliance on the incremental approach to equality fosters the same discrimination that spurred the initial complaint.

When Parliament ordered the Liberal government to end the shortfall in child welfare of $158 million, the government said if it was forced to spend that money it would be like throwing confetti around. The government had been found guilty of systemic underfunding, but it felt that if it was forced to end the systemic underfunding it would be a waste of money. The Liberals tell us that incremental change is the path forward and that things take time.

I think of Dr. Martin Luther King's incredible statement from a Birmingham jail that asked how we tell people who have been denied rights for 100 and some years to wait and change will come one day. The change has to come today.

Quite simply, we have to start from the principle that Canada has not earned and Canada has never had the credibility or the right to be trusted with the lives of indigenous children.

If the government comes forward with a recognition of its culpability, a recognition of humility, a recognition that we begin the transformation of our fundamental relationship by saying that the future lies with the children, that the rights of the children will be protected, that the basic family units and the cultural units of indigenous communities will no longer be targeted and undermined and destroyed through the chronic systems of the broken child welfare system, the broken education system and the failed housing system and mould crisis, that the lives of children will become the most valuable thing that we cherish in this country, we will be the nation we were meant to be.

When I look at this legislation I see good language, but we need to have it written into law. Jordan's principle has to be written into law because it was the government's continued interpretation of Jordan's principle that was found discriminatory. The statutory obligations to equity have to be written into law because the government cannot be trusted.

When I hear the indigenous services minister say that the government will sign the agreements band by band, nation by nation, community by community, and to trust him, there is no reason to trust. I respect the new indigenous services minister but in my many years here I have seen good Indian affairs ministers, I have seen bad Indian affairs ministers, I have seen lazy Indian affairs ministers and I have seen racist Indian affairs ministers.

The only thing I ever saw change in those 15 years was the concerted, unrelenting legal pressure to force the department to live up to its obligations. Whether we have a good Indian affairs minister or a bad one or an indifferent one, it does not make a difference. These are the legislative responsibilities.

What is it that we want out of this? We want to have clearly written into law the obligations of the federal government to recognize the jurisdiction of indigenous nations and organizations, and we support that. We want it written into law that they will respect and clarify what the best interests of the child are so that it is not vague, so that we will have strong national standards for ensuring equitable treatment with equitable funding. Without equitable funding we cannot move forward.

We want accountability measures for Canada that hold the government to account. We can see what has happened in Manitoba with the Tina Fontaine ruling, where the Conservative government said that with the Tina Fontaine tragedy there were no lessons to be learned. It is a travesty when so many children are on the streets of Winnipeg because of the broken system in Manitoba. In Ontario, the Doug Ford government cancelled the child advocate's office, the one voice for the most marginalized children, speaking up for children who had been sexually or physically abused, children who had died in the system. If we do not have those mechanisms to protect children, the system will continue to destroy lives and we will continue to see the loss of children.

We want to work with the government. We want to do whatever it takes to move the legislation forward but we will not go along with just more words, not after the deaths of so many, not after the Human Rights Tribunal, not after the work of young Cree leaders like Shannen Koostachin, who called out the government for its systemic failure to support the children.

We have to put the lives and the rights of children as a top priority. I have to say that it is going to cost a lot of money to meet those 150 years of broken promises, but I can tell colleagues that there is not a single greater investment that can be made in this nation than in the lives of the indigenous children who are on the reserves, on the streets and in the communities across our country. This is a young generation who are not sitting back, a young generation who are not going to be told what to do, a young generation that understands that hope is made real when it is given the opportunity to make change.

That is when reconciliation will be made real. Without that commitment by the federal government we are just continuing the long broken pattern.

I call on my colleagues in the government. We will do whatever it takes on our side to move this legislation through. However, this legislation has to work in the interests of children because Canada has not earned the right to be trusted with the rights and the lives of indigenous children.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

February 28th, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Gary Anandasangaree Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism (Multiculturalism), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the unceded lands of the Algonquin people and to give my thanks, first, to the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for bringing forward this private member's motion, and second, to the heritage committee, which worked very hard over the past several months to consult and discuss with many indigenous organizations as well as individuals who came forward to give their testimony. I also want to acknowledge the hard work of the committee members, including the chair, who is the member for Toronto—Danforth.

This bill would not be here today if not for the work of the members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They worked very hard, and it is very timely that we have one of the commissioners, Grand Chief Willie Littlechild, in Ottawa today. He made an enormous contribution, as did the other commissioners. I am so honoured that he is here.

He spoke earlier at committee, and you could have heard a pin drop in the silence when he spoke, because he brings a lifetime of wisdom to issues of indigenous rights, both in the international context and with his work as a commissioner of the TRC. As well as being a jurist, he has played many other leadership roles within the legal community, in sports, and in many other aspects of life. It is very fortunate that he is in Ottawa today.

Today is, in fact, quite an important day. Earlier today our Minister of Indigenous Services tabled legislation, Bill C-92, on child welfare issues for indigenous peoples. I believe it is a transformational piece of legislation, one that responds in many ways both to the issues that are faced within communities and to many of the complaints before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Thus, it is a very important step forward by our government, as is the indigenous languages legislation, which was introduced by the minister of Canadian heritage several weeks ago. In fact, the committee completed a study today, and hopefully it will advance to the other place in the next few weeks. We are very excited to have two pieces of legislation moving along that can be linked to individual calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

With respect to this particular day, the national day for truth and reconciliation is a direct response to call to action 80. Over many years, the commissioners spoke with thousands and thousands of survivors of residential schools and came up with specific recommendations for governments to follow.

There has been quite a bit of discussion, as the previous speaker mentioned, with respect to this particular day. Initially, June 21 was recommended as a celebratory day for indigenous peoples. While a lot of people agreed with that date, the general consensus leaned toward September 30, to keep in the spirit of the TRC calls to action, as well as to recognize that there are other injustices that took place relating to indigenous children. The sixties scoop is one of them. Another is the movement of individual communities in the north. There were a number of different harms that were caused by the Government of Canada in the name of the Crown.

Sadly, it is a legacy of the last 152 years that has put indigenous people in Canada in a very difficult and precarious situation, given the many social challenges we see, whether it be housing, education or water.

Fundamentally, however, with the leadership of our Prime Minister, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and the Minister of Indigenous Services, we are moving toward a path to redefine this relationship.

First and foremost is redefining the relationship based on the notion of inherent rights and self-determination. That is what our Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations is undertaking. I believe there over 70 round tables where discussions are taking place to draw up specific rights.

Concurrently, we recognize that many of the challenges we speak of, whether related to water or otherwise, need to be addressed. As a government, we have invested close to $16.8 billion over the last three years to address some of those issues.

Having said that, there is a long way to go. It is very important that we accept the 94 calls to action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This would be an initial step toward fulfilling our obligations, and I think it is a very important step.

What does this proposal mean? It means that September 30 of each year will be a national statutory holiday. We expect that it will mirror Orange Shirt Day. Nationwide, many school boards and institutions have marked Orange Shirt Day and have started the process of education to let people know of the challenges, difficulties and pain faced by residential school survivors.

That is a starting point. However, it is important that over the years, we elaborate on and develop more educational programs and more support that will allow this day to be marked in a solemn way that will make every Canadian reflect. My good friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, stated earlier that only 50% of Canadians know about residential schools. It is important that this national holiday be used as a tool to educate people. It would not be a day off for people. It would be for every community.

As members of Parliament, we have a presence in every part of this country. It is incumbent on us to take the lead and put on events and programs in our local communities to mark this day and make sure that the spirit of the TRC's call to action 80 is adhered to.

I have a couple of items to note before I conclude.

First, I understand that a private member's bill for a national day of truth and reconciliation was brought forward by the member for Victoria. Sadly, he announced today that he will not be seeking re-election. I want to acknowledge the work he has done and his extraordinary leadership and friendship. He is well regarded in the House.

Second, I want to thank all the witnesses, both individuals and communities, who came forward and supported this legislation.

As a government, we are very proud and very pleased to support this and commit to the full implementation of all 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I thank the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for bringing this forward.